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Aging and the perks of technology – part 2

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Oct 24, 2018 in Technology


Today’s older generation would remember manual typewriters and public phone boxes. Some might even recall when television first entered people’s homes.


The technology explosion in recent decades may seem overwhelming to many. But it promises countless benefits for older adults.


Not only can it enhance social engagement and leisure time, technology could help retain independence and provide peace of mind for family members.



Health monitoring


Wearable devices are used by fitness enthusiasts to monitor heart rate and energy expenditure. They can also track blood pressure and blood sugar levels to enable health monitoring and preventive medicine for older adults.


Cloud-based software enables this information to be collected and sent to doctors, making it easier for them to collate health data and deliver care remotely.


New software for the devices also includes mobile connectivity for ease of contacting family any time and GPS tracking to check older relatives’ location.


Other researchers from Monash University have been working on a non-invasive home monitoring apparatus that can gather data on normal movement patterns and send alerts when someone has been uncharacteristically inactive for a long period of time.


The devices are designed to be plugged into power points throughout the house, so they bypass the need for cameras to maintain privacy.


These technologies offer benefits for aged care as well. Providing professionals with comprehensive health data can free them up to deliver preventive and more personalised care.


The monitoring systems could reduce staff burden and improve patient safety.


“Currently, we rely on passing staff members to discover patients or residents after they have experienced an incident,” says Steven Faux from St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.


“The value of the sensors is that the movements can be detected without affecting a patient’s privacy.”



Telehealth and accessibility


Telehealth is defined by the International Organisation for Standardisation as “the use of telecommunication techniques for the purpose of providing telemedicine, medical education, and health education over a distance”.


This has obvious advantages for farmers and other rural dwellers in Australia’s outback, whose technology perks already include internet banking, shopping e-commerce.


Telehealth offers further benefits in health care, including diagnosis, treatment and preventive medicine, and overcoming challenges of distance and relocating health professionals.


Medical consultations using video conferencing, data, images and information can be transmitted without the need for physical travel or relocation.


Grafton Base Hospital in northern NSW is successfully using Telehealth to improve care in surrounding Residential Aged Care Facilities and reduce hospital admissions.


The cost savings are obvious, but there are several hurdles to overcome. This includes perception and acceptance of the technology and potential privacy issues.


Other obstacles include computer illiteracy, training and support, initial setup costs, and legal challenges related to managing the rapid growth of health data, health information transfer and remote consultations.






Aging and the perks of technology – part 1

Posted by ProPortion Foods Blog on Oct 19, 2018 in Technology

It’s been said that “to live is to play”. A bonus of aging is more time for leisurely pursuits. Indeed, a 2016 UK study reported that leisure activities and hobbies were by far the most popular aspirations for older adults.


While for many that might mean reading that long list of books or hitting some golf balls, our technocratic society has a smorgasbord of other entertainment options – including gaming and robots.


And the technologies are not just for fun – researchers are exploring ways they can improve health and quality of life.



Digital gaming for seniors


German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom is leading the way with the game Sea Hero Quest. “More than a game”, they say, it’s a “quest to save the human brain”.


Players chart a course as a sea captain “through complex waterways, desert islands and icy oceans”, meeting challenges and gaining ratings to entice them to keep playing.


In the process, they role play a sailor whose father is losing his memory, and have to rely on old sea journals to help piece his past together.


This relates to the game’s dual purpose: while providing entertainment, it also gathers real-time data on players’ eye, head and navigation movements for dementia research.


Navigational skills are one of the first to fail with dementia onset, so the aim is to provide a more advanced early detection system for this degenerative neurological disease.


They’re well on their way – just two minutes of playing Sea Hero Quest delivers around 5 hours’ worth of lab-based research. So far, they have data equating to more than 12,000 years of research in the lab.


Other researchers are involved in the Worthplay project. Its focus is researching prototype digital games for older adults, to develop interactive games that can contribute to active aging and enhanced wellbeing.



Paro the robotic seal and friends


Paro is a soft, cuddly robot that looks like a baby harp seal. He has a soothing effect on aged care residents, according to Vicki Boyd from the Gunther Village aged care home in Queensland.


Using artificial intelligence, he responds to touch with movement and sound, and like a pet, provides comfort and companionship. Aged care workers have found his calming influence a great help for dementia patients, who can become distressed and agitated. They’ve also found that he can provide a point of conversation and jokes, hence facilitating social interaction.


Another “emotionally intelligent” robot is called Bobby, a Japanese social robot designed to provide support and friendship.


Rajiv Khosla, professor at La Trobe university, says his evaluations found that Bobby robots – who look more like a mini R2D2 – helped older adults feel more relaxed and productive.


On a more practical front, other researchers are working on robots that can assist with activities of daily living to help older adults retain independence and reduce caregiver burden. This might include housework, eating, bathing, dressing and standing up.


The robots could remind people to eat or take their medication, sense when they fall over and sound an alarm, or even – looking further ahead – ferry them to doctors’ appointments as autonomous cars become a reality.